Staff photo by Allison Potter
Wrightsville Beach Mayor David Cignotti, from left, Mayor Pro Tem Bill Sisson, Alderwoman Susan Collins and Alderman Darryl Mills discuss town issues during the annual board of aldermen retreat on Saturday, Feb. 2.
For five hours on Saturday, Feb. 2, the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen and town of Wrightsville Beach department heads convened at the town’s public safety building for the annual board retreat.
Of the variety of issues discussed, resident parking on both the beach strand and Harbor Island has been one of the issues residents have expressed the most concern about recently with the 2013 parking season beginning March 1. Town manager Tim Owens said the two primary issues concern the allotment of parking passes per property owner and the inability of residents within the Harbor Island parking district to allow guests to park on the street.
As a side effect of the Harbor Island parking district enacted in 2012, many residents no longer have space for guest parking due to the fact that most of the lots have very confined, if any, driveways at all.
In response to complaints from residents, the board decided it would be best to leave the district unchanged for 2013 to allow residents to grow more accustomed to it and learn when they can call Lanier Parking to arrange an exemption for special events. Alderwoman Susan Collins said she felt the district was too new to change for the second year, but that she was open to amendments after another year. However, Collins said she would be hesitant to allow guest parking passes for the district because she felt the possible abundance of cars would result in guests parking in front of other homes as well.
Referencing the Harbor Island issue and the resident parking pass limit that affects rental properties with one landlord and multiple units, Wrightsville Beach Mayor David Cignotti said he has always felt two residential parking passes were enough. Adding more could begin to have a negative impact on the town’s parking revenue, Cignotti said.
The town’s C-1 district was also a topic of conversation at the board’s retreat due to past requests by business owners in the district to build above the district’s 40-foot height limitation.
Planning and Parks director Tony Wilson presented the board with the options of either allowing buildings taller than 40 feet and applying dimensional, parking and design restrictions, or creating a new CA-1 district that encompasses Wings, Trolley Stop, Kohl’s and South Beach Grill. The town could then apply those restrictions solely to the new district that is surrounded by high-rise multi-family structures versus applying it to the entire C-1 district, of which a large portion is surrounded by single-family homes, Wilson said.
Cignotti said although he would be reluctant to allow buildings higher than 40 feet in the district, it would be a chance for the town to add setback requirements and reclaim land for green space.
Instead of voting on one of Wilson’s ordinance changes, the board agreed to inform business owners that they could apply for individual text amendments to go higher than 40 feet.
Another policy the board discussed concerned the funding of beach renourishment projects in the future, given the trend of ever decreasing funding for such projects from the federal and state level. Like the other New Hanover County coastal communities, Wrightsville Beach is part of an interlocal agreement requiring the town to fund up to 17.5 percent of the cost for a renourishment project with the rest of the funding supported by the county’s Room Occupancy Tax revenues. State and federal contributions proportionally lessen the amount the town has to fund.
Mayor Pro Tem Bill Sisson said he felt this trend would only continue.
“They are going to pass this down to the local level as much as they can because of the argument that coastal communities have a much higher tax base,” he said. “But, on the other hand, we are also a lot smaller.”
Cignotti said he is hoping the town would receive state and federal support for its upcoming beach renourishment project this year but that, if not, and no alternative source of funding were identified, the funds would have to come from the town’s general fund balance.
The board also addressed ways to ensure the protection of the beach strand’s dunes. Owens said he would like to see the town strengthen its dune protection ordinance because the current one only prohibits moving sand from dunes during construction and carries a fine of $50.
Public works director Mike Vukelich said there usually is a problem with dune damage in the middle of the island, but not so much on the north or south ends.
After discussion, the board requested Owens draft a comprehensive dune protection ordinance that would include destructive activities like walking on dunes.
Another ordinance that could be coming soon involves holding rental property owners accountable for multiple offenses by their tenants. This ordinance was discussed in detail at Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Dan House’s Chat With the Chief. (See related story, page 1.)
Changes may also be made to the town’s recycling contract with Green Coast Recycling this year because the board agreed to open a request for proposal for the contract. The town had no complaints about Green Coast’s pickup procedures, but Vukelich and Cignotti said the company was slow to provide paperwork to the town and not aggressively marketing the recycling program.
To be discussed in the town’s upcoming budget cycle, Owens presented the board with information technology upgrades and improvements he and IT manager Raquel Ivins recommended. Included in the list was a redesign of the town’s website, work order software for the public works department and the virtualization of the town’s server or the use of an Internet cloud system. A virtualized or cloud server would provide a backup for the town’s files in the event of a major storm system.
The board decided to open a request for proposals for a long-range plan encompassing all of the town’s current and future IT needs.